Fund for Quality planning process: Gaining a new perspective

by Deb Green, director, Parent-Infant Center

Last fall, I was so excited to get the letter saying that our Parent-Infant Center (PIC) grant application to the Fund for Quality (FFQ) had been accepted by the Reinvestment Fund and Public Health Management Corporation (PHMC). This funding would enable us to open two new classrooms and increase the number of children enrolled in our PreK Counts program to 45, helping us meet our goal to increase access to high-quality care for families from all socio-economic levels.

The first step in the process was the planning phase. Being the forever-impatient person that I am, I admit, I rolled my eyes a bit as I read through the tasks that needed to be completed during this initial phase.  I consider myself a “seasoned” (a.k.a “old”) early childhood professional, with years of experience in managing many types of programs.  This was surely not my first expansion or construction project, and undoubtedly would not be my last.  I thought “planning” would simply be another hurdle to get over.

We were quickly matched with two consultants to guide us through our planning. Margie DuBrow was assigned to be our lead consultant. Margie has many years of experience guiding leaders of non-profit programs, and within minutes I found her asking questions about organizational structure that I could not immediately answer.  Her questions required a lot of reflection on my part.  She interviewed each person on our administrative team and discussed the results of those conversations with me.  She led me through conceptualizing several models of administrative management, all involved out-of-the-box thinking that I simply had never taken the time to do.  With Margie’s expert guidance, our Board President and I crafted a short-term Strategic Plan that would guide the Board through our expansion project.

I still find myself reflecting on the topics she introduced to stimulate our discussions. I found Margie to be experienced, smart, kind and simply a pleasure with whom to work.

Or second consultant, Bill Grant, served as our financial consultant. I quickly realized that he had more knowledge about the ECE field in his fingertips than I had learned over my entire professional life. Bill responded to the requests of our Board and helped create what seemed like 100 different financial models.  We looked at every possible financial scenario in order to have a very clear picture of where we were going and how we would get there. While Bill was assigned to be our financial consultant, he generously shared his expertise on everything from reviewing architectural plans to the best options for floor products. He even met with us to gain an understanding of how to better utilize the PreK tax credit. Bill’s knowledge of everything early childhood is long and deep and our gains are immense from having had the chance to work with him.

By the time we completed the planning process, I was sad to say goodbye to our consultants, Margie and Bill. I surely hope our paths will meet again.  My initially impatient- and skeptic-self gained a new perspective.  Working and thinking together with others outside of my own organization allowed multiple perspectives, all of which were important to see and hear.  The planning process allowed us to be better prepared to move into the implementation phase of the project and we are simply a stronger organization because of this preliminary work we did.

Our new classrooms are now open and we are so proud of our accomplishments. We are forever grateful to the folks at the Fund for Quality for their support. 

The Fund for Quality (FFQ) is a partnership between Reinvestment Fund and Public Health Management Corporation (PHMC), supported by funding from the William Penn Foundation, and Vanguard Strong Start for Kids Program™. Through the provision of business planning support and facilities-related financing, Fund for Quality supports high-quality early care and education providers with expanding their services to reach more low-income families.